Wi-Fi Chipset Maker Pursues IPO

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Wireless local area network (WLAN) hardware maker Atheros Communications said Tuesday it has taken the first step to go public.

The Sunnyvale, Calif., company, founded in 1998 by faculty from Stanford and Berkeley, has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to offer up to $100 million of common stock. “ATHR” is its proposed Nasdaq ticker symbol.

Atheros was one of the first to bring 802.11a silicon on the market. Its main product is a two-chip “radio-on-a-chip” (RoC) chipset that combines features such as a radio, power amplifier, low-noise amplifier and a media access control (MAC) processor so its customers can build sleeker wireless networking equipment. The chipsets are standardized on the 0.25 micron digital CMOS process.

As for customers, Atheros’ hardware is in PCs from Hewlett-Packard, IBM, NEC, Sony and Toshiba and wireless LAN gear manufacturers D-Link, IO Data, Linksys and Microsoft. The company has also been noticed by chipmaking giant Intel , which turned to it to help with its own WLAN efforts.

The company is entering the public marketplace as part of the white-hot Wi-Fi movement. Analysts see 2004 as a watershed year for the 802.11 chip market, as silicon vendors push beyond the small office/home office scene, coffee houses and airports and into the enterprise, cell phone, and DSL markets.

Atheros execs are in town for Jupitermedia’s Wi-Fi Planet Conference and Expo discuss its advanced Wi-Fi technologies such as Super G and Wake-on-Wireless.

Atheros’ Super G technology allows for packet bursting, data compression and the ability to support larger frames and a dynamic multi-channel mode. The company said Super G delivers 108Mbps data links with actual end user TCP/IP throughput of up to 90Mbps in 802.11a/b/g, 802.11b/g and 802.11a wireless networks.

Likewise, Atheros’ Wake-on-Wireless capability extends network management to the Wi-Fi environment. The company said its Wake-on-Wireless capability is compatible with existing network equipment, management software, and industry standards for remote wakeup functionality.

Atheros’ IPO underwriting process is being managed by Morgan Stanley along with co-lead manager Lehman Brothers and co-managers Banc of America Securities and Thomas Weisel Partners. The IPO is not expected to be available for a couple of months.

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